The Wounds That Bind Us
The Wounds That Bind Us is the improbable true story of Kelley Shinn, an orphan at birth who loses her legs at the age of sixteen to a rare bacterial pathogen. She becomes an avid off-road racer and, as a single mother, attempts to drive around the globe in a Land Rover with her three-year-old daughter in tow to bring light to the plight of land mine survivors. With unflinching honesty, exceptional lyricism, and biting humor, Shinn (“that’s two Ns and no shins”) takes readers on a wild journey—literal and emotional—filled with striking characters and landscapes, heartbreaks, and hard-won insights, ultimately arriving at a place of profound redemption.
Told with the energy and intensity of the adventure story it is, this terrifically rich and nuanced examination of a life is also a careful meditation on renewal—a remapping of the world. Guided by the narrator’s keen introspection and her ability to look resolutely at harrowing sorrows and still find hope, joy, and meaning, The Wounds That Bind Us will resonate deeply, long after the last page.
Kelley Shinn lives on Ocracoke, North Carolina, a remote island twenty-six miles from the coast. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Fourth Genre, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, and elsewhere.
“A harrowing memoir. . . . Readers may not want to follow in [Shinn’s] footsteps, but they will never be bored with her as a companion.”
“Simultaneously empowering and disconcerting. . . . Ultimately, one comes away from this book with an appreciation for the beauty of broken things.”
Southern Review of Books
“It is impossible to put down this book. The story of Kelley Shinn’s often dangerous but always thrilling and adventurous life will leave you breathless and awed. The courage, compassion, and joy with which Shinn lives her life is inspiring. She is the person every parent would want to see their child grow to be, the mother every kid wishes they had.”
Jessica Anya Blau, author of Mary Jane
“This memoir of single motherhood, disability, and an unlikely off-road adventure around the world delivers just what I’m looking for in my reading these days: courage. That, and fine writing, unforgettable characters, suspense, humor, tenderness, and a profound yet humble sense of moral purpose. Kelley Shinn is a marvel, and her book, despite its pain, makes a better world feel possible.”
Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood
“The Wounds That Bind Us offers perennial relevance in a fresh literary manner. Kelley Shinn invites the reader, the voyeur, the accidental tourist into a world that is a brilliant jewel box of precise, complex, and beautiful turns, with language that bites and soothes the wound in the same stroke. These personal narratives, written with a deliberate genius of craft, usher an arresting memoir that lifts heavy veils and becomes bountiful succor for the parched truths we share.”
Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina Poet Laureate
“A beautiful book about how the things we love are torn away from us and about the ways we hold on. Shinn is an anatomist of velocity. Thrilling.”
Thomas Beller, author of J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist